'Recalling Dravid is a retrograde step'
India's bowling is their Achilles' heel and recalling Rahul Dravid to prop the batting order is a retrograde step, according to former cricketers Wasim Akram and Sanjay Manjrekar.
Both reckon that Zaheer Khan's absence will render India a lesser force in this month's ICC Champions Trophy. Unless their batsmen step up to the plate to compensate with those extra runs, they feel, the team will be found wanting in South Africa.
"Their bowling is their weakness. The batsmen made up with some extra runs in Sri Lanka and that's how they won the tri-series there. To win Champions Trophy, the batsmen would have to do it again," said Manjrekar, who will be one of the 13 commentators for ESPN-Star Sports during the September 22-October 5 tournament.
Image: Rahul Dravid
'Harbhajan has started taking the onus upon himself'
Manjrekar said the only positive outcome of the just-concluded series was Harbhajan Singh taking the onus on himself and conjuring up a five-wicket haul to wreck Sri Lanka.
"It brought out more from Harbhajan who indeed bowled like the leading spinner and I think it has to happen in the Champions Trophy as well," Manjrekar said during a programme.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
'Ashish Nehra has improved'
Akram said India will feel Zaheer's absence even though he is expecting Ishant Sharma to do better on South Africa's lively pitches.
"Zaheer's absence would affect India. At this level, experience does matter," Akram said.
"Ashish Nehra has been doing well since his comeback and I expect Ishant to do better since he has the height and would generate more bounce in South Africa.
"These days, Ishant tends to go wide of the crease. His bowling coach should tell him to run straight and I thing it would be okay with him," Akram advised.
Image: Ashish Nehra
'Groom Rohit and Raina for next WC'
Dwelling on the Indian team, both felt Dravid's ODI return is a matter of temporary convenience and not any long-term plan.
Manjrekar went on to say that it was a step in the backward direction.
"I don't see any long-term plan behind that. It's because India were knocked out of the Twenty20 World Cup, and the way they were knocked out, that prompted Dravid's recall.
"Our frontline batsmen got exposed in the tournament and that's how Dravid came into it. I think it was a backward step," said the former India player.
Akram said Dravid's return would make sense only if he was in India's 2011 World Cup scheme of things.
"Dravid is one of the greatest players but he has not played ODI for two years and is now back. I think India should look ahead for the next World Cup and either keep Dravid as part of it or groom Rohit Sharmas and Suresh Rainas," the former Pakistan captain said.
Image: Rohit Sharma
'Raina should bat at No 3'
Both Manjrekar and Akram felt by dropping Raina down the order and drafting in Dravid for the number three slot would dent the youngster's confidence.
Instead, they argued, Raina should be allowed to face the fire and come out unscathed to regain his self-belief.
"Raina will never get back his confidence if he is made to bat at number five or six. He has to stay at number three, face the short-pitch balls and get some runs to regain his confidence.
"Right now, the team seems protecting him but I'm not sure if that is a good idea. They should have accepted it as a challenge and (coach) Gary Kirsten should work with him," Manjrekar said.
Akram said Raina will have to lift himself again to return as the number three bat and there was no good chickening out.
"Once the world discovers that you are vulnerable against short-pitch bowling, the word spreads fast. Batting at number six is no help, Raina has to come back at number three," he said.
Image: Suresh Raina